(Reuters) - A video making the rounds on social media claims that new variants of COVID-19 are forming to sidestep the antibodies created by the global vaccination drive. But scientific evidence thus far does not support this claim.
There is no evidence vaccination efforts against COVID-19 have caused new COVID-19 variants, experts say.
An example of the video in question can be seen. About 57 seconds in, French virologist Luc Montagnier can be heard saying in French, “the variants are the product of and result of the vaccination.” He then claims that death curves follow vaccination curves when looking at country data, and says, “I’ll show you that [breakthrough cases] are creating the variants that are resistant to the vaccine.”
He says the antibodies created by the virus enable the variants to become stronger and mentions the process of Antibody-dependent Enhancement (ADE).
VACCINATED PEOPLE AND VARIANTS
On May 3, Reuters briefly addressed the notion that COVID-19 vaccinations make people more vulnerable to variants.
On April 27, Reuters published a fact check addressing claims made on a COVID-19 conspiracy theory blog that people who received mRNA vaccines for the coronavirus posed a “threat to society” by “spreading their super strain viruses far and wide”.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “a growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection” and are “potentially less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others” altogether.
The CDC also says that “further investigation is ongoing” and that “the risks of SARS-CoV-2 infection in fully vaccinated people cannot be completely eliminated as long as there is continued community transmission of the virus.”
There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccinations have caused the original coronavirus to mutate. As explained by the World Health Organization (WHO), when a virus is spreading widely in a population and infecting many people, it is more likely to mutate. “The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more it replicates – and the more opportunities it has to undergo changes,” the WHO says.
When contacted in April, Dr. Robert Bollinger, an infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told Reuters via email that “compared to unvaccinated people, vaccinated people are less likely to get infected by all of the strains, including the variants.” Agreeing with the WHO’S finding, he added that, “if they are less likely to get infected with variants, they are also less likely to spread variants.”
Bollinger explained that variants are spreading quickly as new mutations develop because “unvaccinated people are getting infected and infecting unvaccinated people at a high rate.” More than 99.9% of all variant infections are from or to unvaccinated people, Bollinger said.
Medical experts at Meedan’s Health Desk reiterated that “there is no evidence of any known vaccine causing new or more dangerous variants of COVID-19.”
They explained that “when an individual is vaccinated, they are less likely to contract and transmit the virus, and therefore less likely to contract and transmit viral variants of COVID-19.”
“The idea that viruses would evolve and grow stronger to evade vaccines may seem like common sense, but there is no evidence for these claims,” they added.
ANTIBODY DEPENDANT ENHACEMENT
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explains that Antibody-dependent Enhancement (ADE) “occurs when the antibodies generated during an immune response recognize and bind to a pathogen, but they are unable to prevent infection” and actually act as a vessel and can cause the worsening of a disease.
Meedan’s experts said on May 25, 2021 that so far “there have been no verified reports of ADE occurring as a result of COVID-19 vaccines.”
Mitigating ADE has been a priority in COVID-19 vaccine development. Some strategies during this process include monitoring and evaluating animal and human trials for ADE, looking over real-world COVID-19 infection data, and “specifically targeting a SARS-CoV-2 protein that was the least likely to cause ADE in early vaccine design.”
They note that data showing lower hospitalizations and cases among populations vaccinated for COVID-19 would likely not be happening if ADE were taking place.
False. Evidence does not point to vaccinated individuals carrying or causing more dangerous COVID-19 variants. Based on evidence so far, there is no indication that COVID-19 vaccines are causing ADE.